Disaster Preparedness and Response Planning in Barnstable County, Cape Cod

Created: 4/29/2010 - Updated: 3/02/2020


The Cape Cod Commission has developed disaster preparedness materials to assist local officials and residents prepare for natural coastal hazard risks, including climate change. In addition, the Commission has incorporated climate change considerations into the siting and design of coastal infrastructure. The primary climate impacts that will affect Cape Cod’s coastlines include flooding, sea level rise, erosion, coastal storms, and changes in precipitation.


Climate change impacts of concern to Cape Cod include sea level rise, flooding, changes in water temperatures, and range shifts of important economic fishery resources like cod and lobster. The majority of the Cape Cod Commission’s activities are focused on hazard planning and land use planning to protect infrastructure and coastal communities. The Commission developed Barnstable County’s original hazard mitigation plan in 2004 along with other local and regional agencies. In addition, the Commission requires new and retrofitted infrastructure to incorporate sea level rise scenarios in the design process under the Cape Cod Regional Policy Plan.


The Cape Cod Commission coordinates and helps local communities develop hazard mitigation plans. The Natural Hazards Pre-Disaster Mitigation Plan (PDM) for Barnstable County was created in 2004 with funding support and approval of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); the 2010 Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan (MHM) for Barnstable County was developed to update the 2004 plan. The MHM addresses the county’s vulnerability to the following hazards: flooding, wind, snow and ice, drought, earthquakes, hurricanes, and climate change impacts, including sea level rise, shoreline erosion, increased coastal storms, and increased precipitation. The goal of the PDM and MHM plans are the same: “to reduce the loss of or damage to life, property, infrastructure, and natural, cultural, and economic resources from natural disasters.” In order to achieve this goal, both the original and updated plan outline the following objectives:

  • increase coordination of planning;
  • assist with local planning preparation;
  • increase outreach and education efforts for local residents and visitors on hazards and climate change risks;
  • implement risk assessment in planning;
  • protect infrastructure and emergency facilities;
  • protect economic viability of coastal businesses;
  • include climate adaptation concerns in planning; and
  • increase and build local capacity to prepare for and deal with coastal hazards, including developing adaptation plans.

By assisting local towns in developing local MHMs, the Commission can help towns qualify for FEMA pre- and post-disaster planning.

Outcomes and Conclusions

The Cape Cod Commission has developed hazard plans and the Cape Cod Emergency Preparedness Handbook to assist local communities prepare for and respond to natural hazard risks, including those related to climate change. In addition, the Commission’s Executive Director was appointed to the Massachusetts Climate Change Adaptation Advisory Committee in 2009. This Committee’s role is to advise the state on adaptation strategies related to projected climate change impacts.


Information gathered from interviews with Ryan Christenberry and online resources. Last updated on 4/29/10.


Gregg, R. M. (2010). Disaster Preparedness and Response Planning in Barnstable County, Cape Cod [Case study on a project of the Cape Cod Commission]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: http://www.cakex.org/case-studies/disaster-preparedness-and-response-pl… (Last updated April 2010)

Project Contact(s)

The Water Resources staff provides technical expertise in water-related matters for the Commission, its staff, and the 15 Cape Cod towns. This includes regulatory reviews, planning projects, and technical projects for towns and the region. Staff members also coordinate water resource activities with federal, state, regional, and local agencies. The activities support the region-wide goal for Cape Cod's water, which is articulated in the Regional Policy Plan:


Scale of Project
Community / Local
Sector Addressed
Land Use Planning
Transportation / Infrastructure
Target Climate Changes and Impacts
Infrastructure damage
Sea level rise
Storms or extreme weather events
Climate Type
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy
Infrastructure, Planning, and Development
Infrastructure retrofitting and improvements
Stormwater systems: retrofitting and improvements
Sewage systems: retrofitting and improvements
Transportation: retrofitting and improvements
Water supply: retrofitting and improvements
Buildings: retrofitting and improvements
Create or modify shoreline management measures
Develop disaster preparedness plans and policies
Governance and Policy
Maintain adequate financial resources for adaptation
Effort Stage
In progress